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GSMA finds mobile operators uncertain about service guarantees for enterprise 5G

When it comes to 5G services for enterprises, there seems to be a lot of general certainty and specific uncertainty, GSMA Intelligence found when digging into dynamics of next-generation telecom services for business.  

Unsurprisingly given consumer market saturation and the characteristics of 5G82% of mobile operators view the enterprise market as key to their 5G strategy, and 70% plan to deploy standalone 5G within three years, largely targeting the enterprise segment. But, zoom in a little further, and there is a lot less clarity around specific aspects of successfully selling and sustaining 5G services for enterprises—like service level agreements (SLAs) or the best-aligned verticals and use cases.   

Interviews with executives at mobile operators around the globe found that about half are not yet clear how SLAs will change to support 5G enterprise services. Many think SLAs focusing on high-level criteria like coverage, speed, and uptime will continue to suffice. This is understandable, given that strict, granular SLAs have not been necessary for consumer services, and that enterprise is largely a new segment for them. Perhaps they haven’t engaged enough yet to dig into what their future customers’ CIOs expect.  

However: GSMA concludesbased on interviews with enterprise IT executives5G for enterprise really does require granular, well-exposed performance guarantees. Requirements will vary depending on the users, services and devices involved, but will be critical in all casesIt’s even fair to say the whole 5G value proposition depends on meeting specific network and service requirements.   

Even if they are not yet completely certain how they will meet the requirement for stringent, highly visible SLAs, operators are starting to become aware of this reality. In the interview with MNO executives, 78% said exposing performance to enterprise customers will be a requirement when charging a premium for performance guarantees.   

Assuming 5G enterprise SLAs are built on much more granular specifications, more precise performance data is needed. And, providing data through existing methods like customer portals or websites that aggregate coverage and uptime data, won’t suffice.  

Here’s another wrinkle: operators haven’t yet discovered that the new SLAs enterprises expect to require real-time monitoring of the performance (experience) of every single connected device—data MNOs don’t currently have or need when dealing with tolerant human customers. Aggregated KPIs that are blind to individual users’ experience, and only report metrics in 15-minute or longer intervals, is another example of “no longer suffices:”  

Successfully selling 5G to enterprises hinges on MNOs’ ability to 1) assure performance in real-time at the individual user level; 2) build and integrate end-to-end solutions with exposed SLA guarantees; 3) clearly demonstrate their capabilities and the value they provide. This isn’t a “build it and they will come” proposition.  

Do MNOs need broad strategies to address enterprise needs across verticals? Yes. Do they need a vertical-specific understanding of enterprise requirements as they relate to specific use cases? Alsoyes. 

Many MNOs are bridging these different aspects of 5G by focusing on several specific verticals while also looking at horizontal capabilities across all enterpriseslike connected assets and AI-enabled video monitoring. The interviews with MNO executives revealed that 73% think it is necessary to focus on the broad enterprise market and specific verticals; both are necessary. 

The specific verticals and use cases operators find success with for 5G enterprise services likely will vary regionally and based on each provider’s individual customer base characteristics. It’s clear operators are unsure which will be most lucrative, and are mostly hedging their bets. MNO executives interviewed by GSMAi collectively mentioned no fewer than 18 separate verticals! Several stood out, however: manufacturing (cited by 64%), transportation (64%), healthcare (45%), retail (27%), and agriculture (27%).  

Regardless of operator approaches to SLAs or how they balance specific verticals against broad market dynamics, convincing enterprises they are up for the challenge may prove the toughest part of all this. For MNOs who already have expertise in the enterprise market, the key is making sure their customers know it, and that they continue to adapt as dynamics change. For MNOs new to the market, leaning heavily on partners as part of marketing campaigns will be a necessary strategy. 

As well as highly reliable and adaptable services, cloud-savvy enterprise customers expecdynamic, granular, self-service performance feedback. MNOs who succeed in this market will find a way to deliver these aspects of 5G as they integrate performance reporting with enterprise processes.  

For more insights into how this might play out and the factors involved, read GSMA’s Spotlight Report, Service performance visibility: operator thinking on SLAs in a 5G world.”


The stats in this article all came from: 

  • GSMA’s Spotlight Report, "Service performance visibility: operator thinking on SLAs in a 5G world," May 2020. 
  • Summarized results of GSMA interviews with 11 MNO executives, spring 2020.